The “beloved” chief of critical care at a Baltimore hospital died Saturday of COVID-19 after caring for the facility’s “sickest patients” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the facility.
Dr. Joseph Costa, 56 — who a colleague likened to “an older brother that [staff] admired and revered” — was the intensive care unit chief at Mercy Medical Center. The hospital, confirming his death, posted about him on Facebook Sunday.
“He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients,” Sister Helen Amos, head of the hospital’s board of trustees, and David Maine, president and CEO, said in a joint statement. “When the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need.”
In the statement, Costa is described as “beloved by his patients and their family members.”
“[He was] known for his warm and comforting bedside manner as well as his direct and informative communication style,” the statement said. “When he counseled our patients and families, he did so with great compassion and empathy.”
Dr, Neda Frayha, who said she worked with Costa during her residency, tweeted Monday that he was “kind and brilliant,” adding, “I vividly remember being on call overnight, caring for very sick patients on the floor, & feeling so much calmer when Dr. Costa came to help.”
Costa worked for Mercy for 23 years and became the chief of critical care in 2005. He is survived by his husband, David Hart. The couple had been together for 28 years.
“I keep thinking, ‘Now there is one less ICU doctor to care for pandemic patients in Baltimore,’” Hart told The Baltimore Sun.
Hart added that Costa’s colleagues held a vigil for him as he lay dying, and that he held his husband in his arms until he passed away early Saturday morning.
Maryland has had more than 85,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 3,000 deaths, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 600 health care workers in the United States had died of COVID-19, adding that its data was incomplete. But Lost on the Frontline, a project by the Guardian and Kaiser Health News, said various reports showed that 821 frontline health care workers in the U.S. who died of the virus.
Dr. Amy Zimmerma, a medical school classmate of Costa’s, told Baltimore-based WBAL, that his friend’s death should serve as a reminder of the severity of the virus.
“This is real. This was a 56-year-old healthy man. He knew how to be careful. He knew how to take good care of himself, and he still passed away from this disease,” she said. “This could happen to anybody.”